Michigan clinicians offer mental health resources to coronavirus frontline workers

Mental health professionals join forces to provide resources, support to frontline workers amid coronavirus pandemic


Mental health professionals in Michigan are coming together to provide support and resources to frontline workers amid the escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The pandemic is negatively affecting the mental health of most, according to behavioral science experts.

Long-term health effects will likely ripple across all age groups, including sleep disturbance, hypervigilance, PTSD, substance abuse, relapse and suicides, experts said. The pandemic’s impact on mental health could result in a 10-20% increase in demand for mental health services, according to officials.

Clinicians from Michigan are joining forces to help individuals through these crises, especially those who are still working every day during the pandemic.

MI Frontline Support (MIFS) is a new initiative organized by local clinicians to provide crisis- and coping-related resources to frontline workers in the state. MIFS creators have a loose definition of “frontline workers”, which includes health care workers and first responders as well as those working in grocery stores, delivery and mail services, the media and more.

Clinicians within the group’s network are also sharing information and resources to prepare one another for assisting frontline workers.

Run by four local, licensed clinicians, MIFS is also compiling a list of clinicians throughout the state who are readily available to support frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to view their list of providers, their specialties, accepted insurances and more.

“If we can help get people connected to the support that they need, that’s what we’re going for here; that’s our goal,” said Dr. Felicia Brabec, licensed therapist and co-creator of MIFS. “If we can help all of the people that are out there helping us, that’s what we want to do.”

The initiative is hoping to establish a network of 500 clinicians from around Michigan to ensure support is available in every county, officials said. As of Saturday, MIFS has information for over 300 clinicians on their list.

Licensed clinicians can sign up to be added to the list by clicking here. Clinicians’ licenses are verified before they are added to the list, officials said.

Dr. Brabec offered more information for clinicians in her Facebook post below.

Dear Michigan mental health colleagues - We need your help to support our frontline responders! MI Frontline Support...

Posted by Felicia Brabec on Saturday, April 4, 2020

Some of the listed mental health providers are offering a “sliding-scale” payment method, in which the clinician adjusts the cost of services based on the client’s income. There are a few listed clinicians even offering pro bono services during the pandemic. Review the MIFS list of providers list to learn more about payment options.

Licensed clinicians from MIFS, Therapist Refresh and Strength of all Parts came together to create a video to help frontline health care workers cope with their current working conditions.

“From Stress to Resilience” offers information and tips to support healthy coping mechanisms while working in the medical field during the COVID-19 pandemic. The video includes a 90-minute presentation and question and answer session, and can be found here.

Dr. Sharon Gold-Steinberg, a clinical psychologist and co-creator of Therapist Refresh, said that it’s important for frontline workers to know that their feelings and reactions are not their fault. Their exposure to trauma (either their own or of their patients) may seem overwhelming to their coping capacities.

Her concern for frontline workers led her to join MI Frontline Support as she wanted frontline workers to know that they have a community that cares and supports them.

Gold-Steinberg said that trauma, either one’s own or witnessing the trauma of others, affects people in different ways. She thinks that many frontline workers will have a hard time escaping the “fight or flight” state or a state of exhaustion and collapse.

Skills to help cope with this include trying to limit exposure to trauma, soothing the nervous system through mindfulness or redirecting attention, seeking social support, avoiding ruminating on decisions and taking breaks.

Therapist Refresh is sharing meditations for individuals in “helping fields” to help them rest, practice mindfulness and cope during the pandemic. Click here to access the meditations.

Gold-Steinberg said that humans are adaptive and resilient -- while not all frontline workers will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or secondary traumatic stress, they may find growth or strength in both themselves or others.

The COVID-19 pandemic can negatively affect anyone’s mental health, whether you are working on the frontlines or not.

Below are some free resources that offer mental health support:

  • A statewide warmline is available for Michiganders living with persistent mental health conditions. It is intended to serve individuals living with persistent mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and trauma. Click here to learn more.
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline is available to provide crisis counseling 24/7 to those affected by COVID-10. Click here to learn more.
  • Tulane University is offering self care resources for individuals to meditate, discover healthy activities, connect with family and friends and more. Click here to learn more.
  • Mental Health America offers online tests for you to examine the state of your mental health. Click here to learn more.
  • Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital launched a weekly webcast called “Thrive With Your Family” to help families through the new realities they face during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures. Click here to learn more.
  • The University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations and Center for Academic Innovation are offering the “Thrive in Trying Times Teach-Out” for individuals and community members for free until May 25.
  • Michigan Gov. Whitmer announced the Stay Home, Stay MIndful website in partnership with Headspace to provide a new, free mental health resource for Michiganders during the pandemic. Michiganders can access a specially-curated collection of science-backed, evidence-based guided meditations, along with at-home workouts that guide people through mindful exercises, sleep and kids content to help address rising stress and anxiety. Click here to learn more.
  • We’ve compiled a list of suicide prevention support and mental health resources. Click here to learn more.
  • Mental health specialist Donna Rockwell offers advice for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to learn more.

Read our latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic here.

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.